“Paradise” by Meljean Brook

26 May

I have mentioned before that I rarely read anthologies cover to cover-which begs the question of why I buy them in the first place. The answer is that I want one-perhaps two-of the stories within, and that I want that one story bad enough to pay for content I know I am likely never to read.

You can imagine how happy I am on those occasions when two or more of the stories in the same anthology resonate with me. These are two such stories, originally published in 2007 in the Wild Thing anthology by Berkley.

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“Paradise” by Meljean Brook

The third story in Ms Brook’s Guardians series (which started with the short “Falling for Anthony” published in the Hot Spell anthology*, followed by Demon Angel), it tells the story of Selah, one of the oldest remaining Guardians, and Lucas, a powerful vampire.

From the back cover:

Follow the dark shadows that stalk both the living and the undead in a world of restless vampires and guardian angels…

Picking up shortly after the events of Demon Angel, the Guardians are hunting the couple hundred demons who managed to escape to Earth before the Gate from Hell was closed. Selah has been sent to Ashland to find out whether or not one of these demons is responsible for a number of vampire killings in the area. Apparently these are part of a ritual to divert the Gate there from Caelum to Hell-which would free Lucifer and his hordes to wreak havoc on Earth again.

The first order of business is to locate the head of the vampire community in Ashland. Lucas Marsden is young to be such a leader, but he is powerful due to the circumstances of his turning-a former Guardian saved him and his late consort from a nosferatu two decades earlier. Between his power and his personality, along with the unusual composition of the vampire community in Ashland, it was inevitable that he would become the leader.

As the story starts, we learn that Lucas’ consort has recently died (under not quite clear circumstances) and that Lucas is struggling to overcome a deep sense of responsibility and guilt over both her death and their relationship. She was his consort only because her husband-and his best friend-didn’t survive the night when both were turned.

Soon we learn that Selah is also trying to cope with memories of her failure to help Colin, a friend and another vampire. Memories of leaving him, helpless and alone, to the horrors of Chaos. On top of that, she harbors resentment towards the numerous Guardians who chose to Ascend, leaving so few of them behind to protect humanity.

There is an interesting balance between the external conflict-Guardians vs demons-, the internal conflict Lucas and Selah character face, and the development of their relationship. While the action lasts only a handful of days… erm, nights, what develops between these two is momentous enough to change them and the course of their destinies.

The plotting is tight and the characterization compelling. In just over a hundred pages there is enough world building sprinkled through that even a reader coming fresh to the series would get a clear picture of the Guardians’ universe and most of its rules. For the fans of the series there are some cameos-Colin, Lilith, Hugh and Michael.

8 out of 10

*which, much to my shock, I have yet to review here. In the meantime, here’s this review at the Smart Bitches
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